Morocco World Cup 2018
Morocco return to the World Cup stage after an absence of twenty years, although it is expected to be a short return with most predicting a group stage exit for them.
History at the World Cup
Morocco first qualified for a World Cup in 1970, exiting at the group stage, and then became the first African team to top a group at the finals the second time they qualified in 1986. That was the only time they have made it past the group stage, finishing above England, Poland, and Portugal before suffering a last 16 defeat to West Germany. They have only managed to qualify for two other World Cup finals, in 1994 and 1998, and have exited at the group stage on both occasions.
- World Cup Finals Appearances – 4
- Previous Best Performance – Last 16
How they qualified
Morocco entered CAF qualifying ranked twenty-second in the region, and were drawn against Equatorial Guinea, ranked twenty-one places higher in the FIFA rankings, for a place in the final group stage.
It was a tough match against the higher ranked team, but Morocco managed to scrape through 2-1 on aggregate.
In the next round, they were the lowest ranked team in their group with Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Mali, and were not expected to challenge for top spot.
However, they surprised everyone by, not only challenging for top spot, but finishing four points clear of Ivory Coast. They qualified for Russia 2018 as unbeaten group winners, having not even conceded a goal in their six matches.
It was a remarkable achievement by Morocco, considering their ranking and the low expectations surrounding them, and they fully deserve their place in Russia.
Frenchman Herve Renard, who had a pretty unremarkable playing career, has excelled in international management.
He is the only manager to lead two separate nations to AFCON glory, with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
A short-lived return to club management followed, but he was sacked by Lille after just four months, and he was appointed Morocco head coach in February 2016.
He was linked with the Algeria head coach position, but he committed his future to Morocco by signing a new contract until 2022. This came after he led them to qualifying for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.
He hasn’t had the most success at club level, once even being sacked by Cambridge United, but he is making a name for himself across Africa.
Defender and captain Medhi Benatia is perhaps the most well-known Moroccan international among European football fans, having been a part of the Serie A title winning Juventus squad in 2016/17.
He appeared twenty-one times, in all competition, for the Italian side that season, after joining on loan from German giants Bayern Munich, for whom he played a part in two Bundesliga title winning seasons.
Sofiane Boufal is probably the most recognisable player among English fans, having been a Southampton player since August 2016.
Morocco World Cup 2018: Assessing Their Chances
Punters can get odds of around 400/1 for Morocco to win the World Cup, and 16/1 for them to top their group. In fact, it’s around 9/2 for them just to make it through to the next round.
Those odds are not surprising considering they have been drawn to face Portugal and Spain in the group stage. The fourth team in the group is Iran, who are ranked twelve places above Morocco in the FIFA rankings.
They have surprised people in the past, by topping their group in 1986 and even qualifying for the finals in Russia, but it would take a minor miracle for them to even make it out of the group in this tournament.
Our Morocco World Cup Prediction
Unfortunately for Morocco fans, this is likely to be an extremely tough tournament and their hopes of advancing to the knock-out stages are pretty much zero. Our prediction is that they will lose to both Portugal and Spain, with maybe a draw against Iran, and exit the tournament at the group stage.